In a win and get in game to earn an NFC playoff berth, the Los Angeles Rams’ backs were against the wall while starting a quarterback who had never thrown an NFL pass.
The Rams ultimately battled defeating the Arizona Cardinals 18-7 on Sunday at SoFi stadium in a low scoring affair and will face the Seattle Seahawks on the road in the wild card round next weekend.
John Wolford passed for 231 yards and rushed for 56 more in his NFL debut and may again be called upon if Jared Goff is unable to play after breaking his thumb last week.
“I thought he did a great job today. He made plays. I know there is guys around him that are capable of making some of those and I expect those guys to be able to do that,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “He really gave us a chance offensively with the amount of plays that he made in the pass game with his legs, athleticism, being able to extend things, I thought he was outstanding against a really tough defense that came ready to go. I was really pleased with John.”
Wolford’s first pass attempt of the game was intercepted by Jordan Hicks, immediately setting the Cardinals up in the red zone.
“That was a bad throw, bad decision. I held my eyes for a second trying to get an in-breaker on some leverage,” Wolford said.
Los Angeles defensively forced a safety in the first half and also capitalized on a pick-six by defensive back Troy Hill on an 84-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The Rams held the Cardinals to 214 yards and shut them out through the final three quarters of the game.
“I just can’t say enough about the defense, the way that they played,” McVay said. “To be able to come away with a safety, a scored touchdown that gave us the lead, to be able to get the blocked field goal, they are unbelievable all day. They’ve really been the strength of this team and I thought they showed up in a big way.”
Rams rookie running back Cam Akers returned to the field after missing Week 16 with an ankle injury and finished with 34 yards on 21 carries.
Kyler Murray left the game in the first with an ankle injury and did not return until the fourth, finishing only with 87 yards passing.
“Not being able to play in a majority of this game stinks,” said Murray, who came into the game already questionable battling a shoulder injury. “I know we are a playoff team, but we hurt ourselves and we held ourselves back.
Cardinal’s backup quarterback Chris Streveler passed for 105 yards and connected with Jonathan Ward for an 11-yard score in the first after Wolfords interception.
However, all momentum swung the Rams’ way when Streveler was intercepted by Hill and returned for a touchdown.
Matt Gay converted two of his three field goals in the second half to give the Rams a comfortable double-digit advantage.
“Thought we had a free play, tried to put the ball in play, give them a chance and just didn’t get the call on that,” Streveler said on the team thinking they got the Rams to jump offsides.
Murray returned to the field late in the fourth but Los Angeles was able to contain the dual-threat quarterback, not allowing the Cardinals to score again while capturing an 18-7 victory.
The Rams will next travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks on Saturday at Lumen Field in the NFC Wild Card round.
Kick-off is scheduled for 1:40 pacific time.
“I think they’re a great team who I respect, but I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to go compete and see if we can put our best game plan together, go lay it out there in all three phases, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” McVay said on facing the Seahawks for a third time this season.”